On Friday morning, February 10, 2023, approximately 1,800 Central Indiana elementary school students filed into Clowes Memorial Hall to attend a free performance of The Magic School Bus: Lost in the Solar System. The performance was part of the 2022-23 Clowes Education Matinee Series, which Butler University announced last August would be offered free of charge for Central Indiana PK-12 students for the first time ever. Within two months of making the announcement, the entire series sold out. 

With six performances in this year’s series, that means nearly 11,000 Central Indiana students will have access to an educational arts performance through the free series. Among others, this year’s performances include The Pout-Pout Fish, Junie B.’s Essential Survival Guide to School, and The Magic School Bus: Lost in the Solar System, which was sponsored by Regions Bank. The performances are tied to books and educational topics children learn in school, and often include accompanying educational and classroom materials to further enhance the students’ learning.

“Teachers repeatedly tell us how meaningful these experiences are for their students in bringing classroom material to life in an engaging way,” Joanna Hodges, Butler Arts and Events Center Director of Engagement, said. “For many students, the experience marks the first time they’ve ever seen a live performance in a theater. Research has shown that exposure to the arts promotes empathy and critical thinking skills, and so we feel confident that the benefits of these experiences for students extend well beyond the day of the performance.”

The Clowes Education Matinee Series began more than 30 years ago and, in 2019, the Series marked its one millionth visitor. During 2020 and 2021, the Butler Arts and Events Center offered free virtual education matinee performances so that Central Indiana teachers could bring the performing arts into their classrooms during the pandemic, but this year marks the first time the live performances have been offered for free. The initiative is part of Butler’s commitment to creating equitable access to the arts and arts education in Indianapolis.

“We are grateful to Regions Bank for sponsoring one of the performances in this series and for seeing the value in offering these experiences to Central Indiana students. We are hopeful that other organizations and individuals will come alongside us to help make these educational arts experiences available to many more students in the coming years,” Aaron Hurt, Butler’s Vice President for Arts, Events, and Enterprise Management, said.

This year, the Butler Arts and Events Center hopes to raise $2,500 for the Butler Arts Center Education Fund on Butler’s Day of Giving February 22-23. Donations to the Butler Arts Center Education Gift Fund during Day of Giving will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $2,500 thanks to an anonymous donor. Aside from the one sponsored performance, funding for this year’s free series came out of the Butler Arts and Events Center budget. Hurt says donor support will be crucial in keeping the performances free for students in future years.

“This is a really powerful way for donors to help us provide equitable access to arts experiences for Central Indiana students, and I’m really thankful to those who will join us in this mission by making a gift on Day of Giving,” Hurt said.

Please visit Butler’s Day of Giving site to make a gift to the Butler Arts Center Education Fund on Day of Giving (February 22-23).